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Video Game Deep Cuts: The Game Developers Conference Aftermath 2

The weekly update rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games tackles GDC 2019, from Google announcements to session highlights & beyond.

Simon Carless, Blogger

March 24, 2019

9 Min Read

[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.

Phew, am barely recovered from a GDC 2019 week in which Google & a bunch of other platforms talked about neat stuff (see below!), our Main Stage presentation produced a Media Molecule-created Dreams musical performance I'm still fanboying over, I profited handsomely from Gabe Newell memes on Twitter, and a mountain more besides.

Our GDC Flickr page gives a good idea of the creativity, general vibe (& fun!) at the show this time, & there will be 130+ free session videos zooming onto GDC Vault in a coupla weeks or so. This should give more insight into the talks (and Valve's cranial stimulation device) to those who couldn't make it. And I'm super proud to help put together the show. Onwards!

Until next time...
Simon, curator.]


In this GDC space, a toilet plunger becomes your game controller (James Martin / CNET - ARTICLE / GALLERY)
"What happens when you mix one part hacker space with one part game developer community and throw in a pinch of bizarre? You get one of the most unique spaces at the Game Developers Conference, "alt.ctrl.GDC." With wild alternative controllers that use movements, actions and some very interesting switches, visitors can play games in a whole new way.

Valve Software dreams of analyzing your brainwaves to tailor in-game rewards (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Valve Software's famously "flat" structure means most of its game-making staffers have vague titles. One of the few exceptions is its Principal Experimental Psychologist, who presented a futuristic gaming vision at this year's Game Developers Conference—in particular, he made a few peculiar admissions about how Valve might one day study your brain activity in the middle of a game and what the company might do with it."

On birdwatching in video games (Ian Evenden / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Sit near a yucca plant in Far Cry New Dawn's verdant, strangely pink and only slightly scorched forests and you'll see them: hummingbirds circling the flower spike, chirping away. Get too close and they vanish, the price you pay for crafting a medikit."

Road to GDC: Curating Video Games (Marie Foulston / Variety - ARTICLE)
"But do we really believe that a true appreciation of a creative work is intrinsically bound to, or heightened by an ignorance of the creative practice it is born from? For me, no, it is not; I want designers to tell me of the complexities, of the skill, the challenges and the constraints of their practice and when they do it can turn even the smallest detail of a game into an absolute miracle of craft and achievement."

Microsoft: "Our goal is to reach everyone on the planet" (Martin Robinson / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"At this year's GDC, there's one topic ruling the conversation; streaming services, and the arrival of Google as a player in what's now become a very tangible space. How long ago it now seems from the comically messy launch of OnLive... Microsoft has already made its own motions, of course, with the announcement of its own xCloud service last year, headed up by corporate VP of gaming cloud Kareem Choudhry, who we got to catch up with on the eve of Google's big show."

Valve’s (almost) ‘anything goes’ content policy devalues Steam and harms developers (Michael Futter / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Valve’s recent brush with obscene and harmful content is the latest incident that exposes one of Steam’s key weaknesses. Abdicating its responsibility as a content host has led the market leader to alienate developers and damage its own brand. [SIMON'S NOTE: on the other hand, everyone is grumpy about different things with regard to the Epic Store. But I see why many think Valve should be less laissez-faire.]"

John Riccitiello interview — Is Epic buying Unity’s developers? (Dean Takahashi / VentureBeat - ARTICLE)
"GDC seems like a new E3, but with a technical bent. Lots of announcements now. Generally, it’s what we all expected. I don’t know that there’s anything at the industry level I didn’t know about a year ago that’s coming now. No giant surprises."

GDC 2019: “How Do We Make People Feel Welcome?” (Jake Spencer / Medium - ARTICLE)
"“As we all gather here, I want to remind everyone how important the messages we send tonight are. These messages are spoken through the nominations, the winners, the games we make, the games we play, and the cultures that we celebrate." [SIMON'S NOTE: the intro quote, currently uncredited, is from IGF chairperson Kelly Wallick, btw.]"

Darkest Dungeon's creators tell us what it's really like to go to GDC (Jill Grodt / Destructoid - ARTICLE)
"That’s why I... met up with Chris Bourassa and Tyler Sigman, co-founders of Red Hook, creators of Darkest Dungeon and soon Darkest Dungeon 2. Their gothic RPG was nominated for the conference’s Independent Game Awards back in 2016 and both have given several talks for GDC, so they were the perfect pair to walk me through what it's like to attend the show."

A dev trained robots to generate “garbage” slot machine games—and made $50K(Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"This year's Game Developers Conference saw two game makers emerge with a possible chapter in a future dystopian sci-fi novel: the story of making money by letting robots do the work. In their case, that work was the procedural generation of smartphone games. [SIMON'S NOTE: I've heard that this talk - which is not 'make money quick', rather semi-intentional pathos, has been described as the best GDC lecture of all time (!) Looking forward to seeing it on YouTube/GDC Vault.]"

Google Unveils Stadia, a Video Game Streaming Service That Could Threaten Xbox and PlayStation (Chris Morris / Fortune - ARTICLE)
"Google is getting into video games. And it’s playing to win. The search giant, speaking at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) in San Francisco Tuesday, unveiled Stadia, an ambitious game streaming service that could present the most significant challenge yet to console makers such as Sony and Nintendo. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see Digital Foundry's hands-on with the tech, which is impressive, but still has a number of questions to be answered - as a lot of emerging tech generally does! And I dug Joost Van Dreunen's take on the subject. Oh, and here's a bonus Phil Harrison/Majd Bakar interview.]"

Snapchat to Launch Gaming Platform Next Month (Alex Heath / Cheddar - ARTICLE)
"Snap Inc. plans to announce its long-rumored gaming platform for developers next month, Cheddar has learned. The mobile game platform, internally codenamed “Project Cognac,” will feature a handful of games from outside developers designed to work specifically in the Snapchat app, according to a person familiar with the matter. [SIMON'S NOTE: And then there's the Apple premium game subscription announce that appears to be coming next week - this 'video games services on big platforms' thing is really taking off!]

Sweeney commits to human moderators & quality filters for Epic's Games Store(Alex Wawro / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
""I think the future of game discovery cannot just be about storefronts," he said. "It's going to be a lot of mechanisms," citing everything from mobile chat clients like WeChat to Twitch streamers as increasingly valuable avenues for getting your game in front of potential players. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots of interesting chat in here, and the Gamasutra editors have dozens of GDC talk write-ups - spanning design, advocacy, art, & more - you should definitely browse too!]"

Theater’s Next Stage (Mo Mozuch / Newsweek - ARTICLE)
"Punchdrunk’s partnership with Media Molecule began, unofficially, when studio head Siobhan Reddy saw Sleep No More in New York City. She took her mother and sister to what she thought would be a straight performance of Macbeth. Her experience in the space, which spoke to her sensibilities as a game designer, piqued a curiosity about Punchdrunk’s work."

Hypnospace Outlaw Revives the Internet of the '90s with the Fears of Today (Dante Douglas / Paste - ARTICLE)
"It’s the conflict between these ideas—the net as a place of relaxation and the net as a place of productivity—that undergirds Hypnospace Outlaw. The company behind Hypnospace is exactly the kind of fake internet mogul of the dot-com bubble you’d expect, a combination of a whiz-kid hacker and his more businesslike brother. [SIMON'S NOTE: due to advising its publisher No More Robots, I've hung out in Hypnospace's dev Discord a bunch, & even have a mutated version of one of my early '90s chiptunes somewhere buried in the game. Anyhow, I'm delighted that people are digging it - it's a really unique piece of art evoking an era that means something to me, & some of the featured music is straight-out wild.]"

Indie Devs Sound Off on Diversity, Ethics, Deadlines Without Crunch (Michael Futter / Variety - ARTICLE)
"Each year at the Game Developers Conference, developers are invited to give five-minute microtalks during the annual Indie Soapbox event. This year’s session featured ten speakers and topics including the importance of diversity, striving for ethical design, and the value of setting deadlines without overworking yourself."

How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games (Simon Parkin / Nautilus - ARTICLE)
"On Sept. 16, 2007, a Japanese YouTuber who goes by the handle “Computing Aesthetic” uploaded a forty-eight-second-long video with the deafening title, “ULTRA MEGA SUPER LUCKY SHOT.” The video shows a high-scoring shot in Peggle, a vastly popular video game, loosely based on Japanese pachinko machines..."

Former Valve designer, writer dishes on his new “co-op” game studio (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"In 2017, game designer and writer Chet Faliszek left Valve Software. The departure was notable in part because Faliszek was perhaps second only to company co-founder Gabe Newell in terms of public exposure, but also because Faliszek's work represented a seemingly long-gone era at the game studio: one of irreverent, story-driven games that emphasized co-op (both Left 4 Dead games and Portal 2, among other titles)."

Rami Ismail’s last #1ReasonToBe panel showcases the world’s inspired game devs(Dean Takahashi / VentureBeat - ARTICLE)
"Game developer advocate and Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail has run #1ReasonToBe, one of the consistently most inspiring panels at the Game Developers Conference, for years. This year’s global diversity panel was his last one, and it was an emotional session about how game developers struggle to make games around the world — and why they still do it in spite of hardships."

Streaming and Cloud Computing Endanger Modding and Game Preservation (Rich Whitehouse / Motherboard - ARTICLE)
"For most of today's games, modding isn't an especially friendly process. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, people like me are digging into these games and reverse engineering data formats in order to create tools which allow users to mod the games. Once that data starts only existing on a server somewhere, we can no longer see it, and we can no longer change it."


[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later on Sunday, but get it first via newsletter! Story tips and comments can be emailed to [email protected]. MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]

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Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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